Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/William James Müller

MÜLLER, William James (1812–1845), English landscape and figure painter, was born at Bristol on 28th June 1812, and was the son of a Prussian gentleman, a writer on scientific subjects and curator of the Bristol Museum. He received a careful education, being especially trained in botany and natural history, and it was intended that he should become an engineer; but his leanings towards art were too definite to be resisted, and he was placed under J. B. Pyne to receive his first instructions as a painter. His early subjects deal mainly with the scenery of Gloucestershire and Wales, and he learned much from his study of Claude, Ruysdael, and the other earlier landscape-painters. In 1833 he figured for the first time in the Royal Academy with his Destruction of Old London Bridge — Morning, and next year he made a tour through France, Switzerland, and Italy. Four years later he visited Athens, extending his travels to Egypt, and in the sketches executed during this period and the paintings produced from them the power and individuality of the artist are first apparent. Shortly after his return he left Bristol and settled in London, where he exhibited regularly, and found purchasers, at moderate sums, for his pictures. In 1840 he again visited France, where he executed a series of sketches of Renaissance architecture, twenty-five of which were lithographed and published in 1841, in a folio entitled The Age of Francis I. of France. He was anxious again to visit the East, and in 1843 he accompanied, at his own request and his own charges, the Government expedition to Lycia, where he produced an extensive collection of masterly sketches of scenes unfamiliar to the art of his time. They were exhibited in London; their merit was fully recognized by the British public, and the artist received numerous commissions for finished pictures. But his health was seriously impaired, he was suffering from heart-disease and from continued nasal haemorrhage; and, returning to his native city, he died there on 8th September 1845.

The works of Müller are distinguished by much power and originality, by great speed and directness of execution, by the vigour and emphasis which mark the born sketcher, and by brilliant power of splendid and sharply-contrasting colour. The qualities of tenderness, gradation, and mystery, in which they are commonly wanting, might have been within the reach of the artist had his life been longer. Since his death, and especially since the Gillott sale of 1872, his works have commanded very large prices. The Chess-Players at Cairo, for which Müller received £25, has since sold for upwards of £4000. The print room of the British Museum possesses, through the bequest of Mr John Henderson, a very rich collection of Müller's sketches. His biography by N. Neal Solly was published in 1875.